This morning I got a little reminder of the wonderful gift of life. I had to drop off a rental truck a few miles from my house, and needed to get home. My usual ride (my wife) was busy, so I just took her “cruiser” bike, threw it in the back of the truck, and pedaled my way home after dropping the truck off. It was a bit cold (in the high 30’s), but otherwise a nice day for a ride. I must have been quite a sight, all bundled up against the cold, riding a too-small-for-me bright orange cruiser with a wicker basket on the front. And a big-ass smile on my face.
Until a few years ago, I used to be a fairly avid cyclist. A 20-mile quick training ride was the least I’d consider worthy of my time. Unfortunately, a just-serious-enough knee injury has kept me out of the saddle, but as I dismounted this morning, I was reminded of those physical feelings I used to get. The cold-numbed thighs and cheeks, the wobbly legs and sore backside. It didn’t take much – just a few miles on a simple one-geared coaster-braked cruiser – to drop me right back into that euphoric state of mind. I really missed riding.
I recently read a couple of articles on CNN Money in which they interviewed dozens of highly successful people and asked them to name the one piece of advice they had received that they considered most valuable. Being a data scientist, I naturally viewed this as an opportunity to mine the answers for wisdom. I ran the text of the answers through a simple auto-summarizer that I like to use (more about that in an upcoming blog post), and categorized the results. The second-most important theme that emerged was the hackneyed, but nevertheless true-to-the-core aphorism to “follow your passion.” (The most important theme? I’ll also cover that in that other blog post.) Until this morning, I had forgotten about how much I loved riding a bike. That passion had fallen by the wayside, much to my physical and, more importantly, mental detriment.
A few years back, my wife bought some blank notebooks. They were a very simple design, with a string-clasp closure, and a cover with a line-drawing of a boy on a bike and the caption, “I ride my bike every day. Life is good.” I thought they were cute, but didn’t really get them until now. The notebook covers, assuming you use them often enough, are a constant reminder to find those things which bring you joy, and to make doing them a habit, a part of your daily routine. For me, that coincidentally happens to be riding a bike, and so I’ll be prioritizing replacing my 20-year-old road bike with something that is gentler on my aging body in the coming year.
I was originally going to title this post “Life: Love It or Leave It,” but decided that could easily be misinterpreted if taken literally. But metaphorically, it is spot-on. As we turn the page to a new year, it’s time to ask ourselves, “What is my ‘bike’?”